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Mountain Meadows by Michael Naranjo

Artwork Location: Sensory Garden on Level 4

Michael Naranjo invites visitors to touch this sculpture.

Mountain Meadows is located in the Rehabilitation Garden on the fourth level. The dark bronze figure is holding his chin with his left hand as he sits with his left leg crossed over the right atop a plinth.  The artwork is accessible to patients who are using this clinical space.  The garden is designed to engage all of the senses.

Naranjo was always inspired to work in clay and turned his attention to sculpting more fully after serving in Vietnam and recovering from an injury that caused his blindness. Since he is guided by his sense of touch to create clay sculptures that are later cast in bronze, it’s particularly important to him that viewers use their hands to experience his artwork. 

“All of a sudden, I thought of this guy up in the sky who controls my life, kind of like Jiminy Cricket. He’s Native American, he has a loin cloth, a little tummy, braids, wears moccasins, and he has a devilish air about him.

I pictured him floating down from the sky, he was chewing bubble gum and suddenly it pops. He’s laughing, holding his tummy, tumbling down. That’s how I see him. Sometimes he leans over this way and whispers in my ear, “Ok let's go do that.” He creates situations for me to overcome and challenges that I encounter.

So here I am, a blind sculptor. And he’s just sitting there like “The Thinker” thinking about what can I do next to this guy? That’s how I pictured him.

His color is gunmetal black because that is the color I see. He has no eyes, because I’m blind, he’s blind.” – Michael Naranjo

The UPMC Disabilities Resource Center hosted a tour for community members to engage with the art collection in the facility in 2023.

Mountain Meadows by Michael Naranjo, located in the Sensory Garden on Level 4.

In describing his sculpture Naranjo says, "I've often felt that I have a guardian spirit. I found him many years ago and named him 'Mountain Meadows,' after the name that was given to me by the elders in Taos Pueblo when I was a young man. He teaches me life lessons, plays tricks on me occasionally, but always makes sure that I am ready for the next day. I picture him sitting on my shoulder like Jiminy Cricket or Pinocchio."

Michael Naranjo describes how the guardian spirit of Mountain Meadows first came to him while driving along the highway from Santa Fe to Denver.